Doom 3 (Xbox) review
"It's an edge of your seat roller coaster ride fired through a minimalist world of spine chilling terror. Intelligent plot twists and character development? Whatever. Such things cloud the atmosphere and instead we're given heart. Bloody and raw gouged freshly from a chest, its still beating will to live enough to drive players through gore both thick and thin."
Before the box was even opened, fans had experienced fear like they had never felt before. Fear not from other similarly themed games of wanton death and destruction, as in comparison such titles are for children, but in the thought of what was in store for a much loved, genre favorite. Dread: would the Xbox be able to handle the PC choking greatness of last year's mega hit, Doom 3? Panic: were Vicarious Visions really the right people for the job? Terror: and what would happen if they actually managed to pull it off? Apparently the four staples of the Doom experience had arrived early, but in doing so they have oddly prepared us for what is arguably one of the most gut wrenching first person shooters around. So let's make no bones about it, Doom 3 is ready to rape and brutalize your psyche like never before. It's you versus the legions of Hell, kill or be killed, survival of the fittest, real men need only apply...
Visions of heaven, a taste of hell...
Mars. The God of War. The fourth planet from the Sun. The focal point of a demonic invasion, and the place you will die... what else do you need to know? For better or worse then, Doom 3 is little more than a remake of the original, 1993 PC classic. It's an edge of your seat roller coaster ride fired through a minimalist world of spine chilling terror. Intelligent plot twists and character development? Whatever. Such things cloud the atmosphere and instead we're given heart. Bloody and raw gouged freshly from a chest, its still beating will to live enough to drive players through gore both thick and thin.
Yet as antiquated as all that may sound, it's the simple things that make Doom 3 what it is. Foregoing the complex, almost cinema-like objectives of other modern, first person shooters, players need only concern themselves with the horrors ahead and the location of their "next key". Linear to a fault, this otherwise straight forward leave your brains at the door, or preferably splattered against it style challenge works thanks to an overwhelming sense of total immersion. The narrow, badly lit corridors and assorted work areas of the UAC research facility have been stunningly rendered with real time shadows, the occasional flickering of a nearby strobe light only serves to further our growing sense of unease. Meanwhile a soft glow from a nearby computer monitor bathes the area in a gentle, welcoming fashion... welcoming that is until you notice the pool of blood in which you stand.
Sooner or later though it becomes time to move, and with lead in their feet, players must inch their way forwards relying on not only a finely tuned sense of self preservation, but on a single solitary flashlight with which to guide their way. Slowly now, pick your moments and creep through the night as the ethereal whisperings of evil draw ever closer. A metallic clang here and you jump. A hiss of steam there and you worry. A flash of blinding red light and you're on the menu. Quick now, what do you do? Should you draw your weapon and thusly loose the ability to see in the dark, or would it be better to flee this monstrosity, hoping to fight another day.
Yeah, you'll probably want to run and hide, but where's the fun in that?
It's with little choice but to stand and fight that players will fall back upon Doom 3's classic range of heavy munitions and occasional power tools. That's right, a power tool. As in the original, bad arse weapon of choice, aka the chainsaw, is back. And while the presence of such a device works wonders for the spirit, just wait until you've had a chance to gore a zombie or three. Blades whirl, blood flies, and what was once an intimidating soldier of Hell has soon been reduced to a freshly blended mix of blood and bone. Yummy! Of course, that's not to say the other weapons are any less fun as the BFG-9000 proves it's not how you use it but the size that counts. Booyah! And still you're going to feel vulnerable in the dark... how's that for ironic?
This though is the Doom 3 way, and in the absence of anything that could be considered actual depth of gameplay, the flashlight gimmick has been driven hard and fast for as long as possible. Fending off the latest demonic assault in near total darkness is one thing, illuminating the battle scene afterwards only to find another zombie has somehow crept up behind you is something else entirely. Creepy shock horror with a flair for the dramatic, a theme that's been perfectly replicated in Doom 3's oddly compelling co-operative play mode. Here players are forced to work together if they're to fend off this invasion as one spots the targets while the other blows them away. This absolute teamwork underfire then proves to be a beautiful synergy, neatly playing off the very same chills generated by the single player campaign. But like I said, they're driving this gimmick hard and fast...
All things being equal then, it should come as something of a surprise to learn that the standard versus modes simply aren't all that. In fact, they're down right archaic. Basic deathmatch options abound as players are dropped in groups of four into maps of limited size with only limited means with which to kill each other. The grandiose vistas and play mechanics of the genre's best are of course missing in action, though in some way their absence is at least in keeping with the simplicity of the rest of the game. Good or bad then, Doom 3 is purely subjective. Some are sure to bemoan the lack of options or variety in gameplay while others will mention how the computer controlled AI seems to do little more than rush players on cue. Pre-scripted assaults and easily memorized attack points add to the disappointment, that is until you remember how Doom 3 isn't looking to revolutionize the genre: it simply wants to reinvent a classic. And that's something it's done with complete and utter success...
Immersion in horror you see is the name of the game, and nowhere is such an ethos more readily apparent than in the private lives of the recently deceased. The audio logs players encounter along the way fill out much of what is loosely considered a back story, examining the day to day concerns of ordinary people going about their lives. And though it may not seem like much at first, it's having listened to one such recording while standing over the corpse of its owner that perspective is found. A moment of pure horror presents itself as life and death are placed in stark contrast, giving players not only reason to pause and reflect, but a means with which to identify with the victims as well. Yes you should mourn the recently dead, that could have been you.
Still, for all its modern trappings, Doom 3 is about as retro as the term can possibly get. Strip away the insane lighting, the high resolution textures, and the kilo shedding soundscape, so what are you left with? Classic imitation at its very best. The finely balanced difficulty has been perfectly graded to accommodate beginners, being gentle enough to welcome them in without ever detracting from the dangers at hand. Supplies also remain few and far between, forcing a welcome conserve-or-die attitude on players that thusly taps survival horror in all the right places. You'll want to cut loose with all guns blazing, shouting profanities while lost in the moment. Do so however and you'll be meat, food for the hordes and a stain on the floor. Kill or be killed then, survival of the fittest, real men need only apply...
* This is Doom the way you remember it, gritty and harrowing
* Labyrinthine map design will keep players on their toes
* The classic weapons of Dooms past are back for more
* Co-operative play is surprisingly rounded
* Loading times have been kept to a minimum
* The real time light sourcing lends the action a definite sense of dread
* Doom 3 still ranks as one of the best looking first person shooters around
* An awesome use of sound literally draws players into the very bowels of Hell itself
* No matter where you are in the game, there's always something to be afraid of
* The Collector's Edition comes packed with both Ultimate Doom and Doom 2
* Some may bemoan Doom 3's lack of real genre innovation
* Multiplayer versus modes aren't all that inspiring
Staff review by Michael Scott (April 21, 2005)
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